Retargeting and Remarketing – What’s the difference?

November 19, 2021

Two words that often get confused in the digital marketing world are retargeting and remarketing. What do these two words mean? And why are they critical for your business growth? To remove the confusion, let’s start with clear definitions.


Retargeting is a way to follow up with people who have visited your website by serving them relevant online ads. As most of us know from our own search and online browsing behaviour, there is usually a reason why we visit a website. Something has caught our attention and prompted us to visit the website. However, for many reasons it might not be the right time to buy, or we may be looking at other options before making a final decision. Therefore, retargeting allows you to remind your website visitors about your product or service or offering.


Remarketing on the other hand is done using email to follow up with people who have visited your website and perhaps chosen items but not moved through to purchase. It also includes people who have purchased from you and who might be open to other offers. Through remarketing you can remind people about the products that they have browsed but not purchased, or if they have purchased something further they might be interested in or inspired by.


So you can see that the principle of following up with prospects is the same for both retargeting and remarketing. However, the difference between the two methods lies in the tools (online ads or email) and the setup and strategy on how to effectively run the conversion process.


Furthermore, at the heart of these two techniques is the idea that you will be more successful with your advertising and more efficient with your ad spend if you find ways to deliver more relevant and timely communications to your potential customers as well as your current customers.


With effective retargeting you can create the most relevant advertising pathways for your customers. For example, if a customer has clicked ‘like’ on a Facebook ad for your shampoo, they might also be interested in an ad for your conditioner, and a further ad with an offer for free shipping if they buy both might convince them to hit the purchase button. Digital advertising statistics tells us that in general only 2% of visitors purchase when they first visit a website, so it’s important to follow up on that other qualified traffic.


To apply the above example to effective remarketing, you might have a customer who has purchased shampoo. So you send them an email explaining how your conditioner complements your shampoo and that there is free shipping for a limited time if they buy both. You can also build specific lists covering circumstances like customers adding to cart, but not purchasing. There are many distractions in our lives and your customer might be mid-purchase on their mobile when they arrive at their train stop and disembark and forget to buy. Having a list set-up to remarket to potential customers like this is smart business.


The important thing is to keep imagining ways to keep your existing customers interested and your potential customers curious. In summary, both techniques are effective and can be used in a complementary way. Ideally you find ways to combine both techniques along with social media, search engine marketing (aka ‘Google ads’) as well as search engine optimisation. Being able to do this in a considered and strategic way usually means you have a solid digital marketing strategy and a healthily growing business.